On October 31, Ross School seventh graders celebrated the completion of their unit on the Maya people and culture with presentations, games, and food inspired by the Mesoamerican civilization. The class studied the Maya as part of their examination of the rise of world empires and universal religion from 356 BCE to 800 CE.
The seventh grade’s interdisciplinary studies explored Maya mathematics, with the students making their own abacus bracelet for use during math games in class; architecture; artwork; sports; agriculture; and religious practices including human sacrifice.
As part of their research into the Maya diet, the class also prepared authentic tamales with guidance from the Ross Café chefs. These delicacies were then served in the Café on Maya Day along with mole, fresh salsas, and other Maya-inspired dishes. During the preparation, Sous Chef Juan Diaz shared his own experience watching his grandmother grind the corn to make tamales during his childhood in Mexico.
To showcase their new knowledge of the Maya, each student spent a couple of weeks working to complete a creative project related to some aspect of their studies. Some students focused on architecture, with models of a bridge, Maya pyramids, the cenote at Chichen Itza, and a commoner’s dwelling. Others focused on culinary delights, sharing tortillas and pineapple/coconut bites with classmates, videotaping the preparation of post-classical dishes, and presenting information about Maya dietary habits.
The Maya’s war-focused side was also explored through a reproduction of sacrificial blue paint, created with blueberries and cabbage; a reenactment of blood letting rituals for sacrifice; and models of Maya warrior weapons and headdress. Religion and scholarly pursuits were represented by an illustrated encyclopedia of gods and goddesses, a glyph-deciphering activity, and a model of a Haab’ calendar. A board game that taught players about Maya trading practices, a painting of human sacrifice, an animated depiction of jade excavation and trade, and a three-dimensional timeline of the Spanish conquest of the Maya rounded out the thoughtful, effort-intensive demonstrations of understanding from the students.